For the first time in living memory, the American right wants to emulate Canada. A convoy of truckers has descended on the Canadian capital of Ottawa to protest cross-border vaccine mandates which require them to show proof of vaccination before they can re-enter their home country after delivering goods to the United States. They remain ensconced there, continuing their disruptive demonstrations against the national government.
For those folks south of the 49th parallel who likewise oppose measures to slow the spread of Covid, these truckers are nothing short of modern-day Bolsheviks standing up to Czar Trudeau II. “Few events in modern times have revealed the vast chasm that exists between the ruled and rulers, especially as it pertains to class,” writes the anarcho-capitalist Jeffrey A. Tucker. “For nearly two years, the professional class has experienced a completely different reality than the working class.”
Kurt Schlichter, a columnist for the conservative website Townhall, has called it a “revolt of the working class.” The “elite,” one presumes, is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party, which has held power since 2015. The “working class” are the truckers.
The premise is wrong.
What is happening in Canada is not a “working class revolt.” It is not illustrative of the “vast chasm” between classes — though that undoubtedly exists, and the pandemic did illustrate that. In their haste to appropriate left-wing rhetoric about class wars and their insistence at viewing the convoy through the lens of American politics, these pundits and gadflies have mischaracterized the convoy and ignored — if not outright erased — this distinctly Canadian event.
To call this a “working class revolt,” as Schlichter did, is to overstate the reality. According to an Ipsos poll released this week, 67 percent of Canadians want the government to impose further restrictions on the unvaccinated, while 49 percent blame the unvaccinated for prolonging the pandemic. Even more specifically, there are 120,000 cross-border truckers in Canada, according to the BBC. Of those, the Canadian Trucking Alliance says 90 percent are vaccinated. This leaves 12,000 truckers unvaccinated, all for their own reasons.
Yet these 12,000 still represent a small minority compared to the number of truckers who have complied with public health requirements. By those numbers, it’s not even a trucker revolt, let alone a working class revolt. Indeed, there has been no noticeable decrease in trucks crossing the border since the revolt began.
That does not mean that the protests are small. The CBC reports that a “convoy of thousands of truckers and other protestors” converged on the capital, with hundreds more joining them on foot. However, it’s highly unlikely all 12,000 unvaccinated truckers joined the convoy. More likely, there were other folks in that mix — folks with their own agendas.
Indeed, the chief organizer of the rally is Tamara Lich, the secretary of the right-wing Maverick Party. According to the party’s own website, “Maverick strives to achieve greater fairness and self-determination for western Canadians through fundamental change, or the creation of an independent nation.” That’s right — this fringe party advocates secession of the Prairie Provinces from the Canadian federation in what some dub “Wexit.”
While “Wexit” may not be an original term or novel idea, it is a sentiment born of real grievances held by many in the Prairie Provinces. The concept of “western alienation” is one Canadians will be familiar with. To my best American understanding, it is a cultural and political disconnect felt by people in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and inland British Columbia towards the rest of the Canadian union.
These provinces tend to be more culturally, socially, and politically conservative. Many there resent what they view as a disproportionate focus on Ontario and Quebec, which have larger populations and more political clout in the national government. I don’t want to imply that these grievances aren’t legitimate — no doubt some are — but it does add a layer to this story that many American pundits seem to be missing. It also makes it unsurprising that the convoy set out from British Columbia or that an officer of the Maverick Party would have such a primary role in organizing it.
While Lich has stressed that this rally is not organized in her capacity as party secretary, the Maverick Party has not shied away from supporting the convoy. “This thing has really taken on a life of its own,” the party’s interim leader, Jay Hill, told the New York Times. Except that, too, does not bear out in the facts.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Ottawa police allege a “significant element” from the United States was involved in organizing, funding, and participating in the convoy. Who is funding and organizing this convoy is a matter James Menzies, the editor of Today’s Trucking and an expert on Canadian trucking, raised back on January 21, as the convoy was just getting underway. Pointing out that $900,000 had been raised through a GoFundMe, Menzies points out that the funds were raised by none other than Tamara Lich. He spells out her association with far-right extremist organizations, including one that “was linked to death threats against [Trudeau].”
“Curiously, she seemingly has no direct connection to the trucking industry,” Menzies writes, noting that she worked in oil and gas and as a singer, but not in trucking at any point in time. Yet this money has gone directly into the organizer’s bank account — as it always does with GoFundMe. Perhaps the ambiguity behind who and what the money raised — $10 million as of this writing — will go to is why yesterday GoFundMe paused the campaign pending further clarification from the organizers.
While the fact that Lich was linked to an organization that threatened to kill the prime minister might indicate this is a political action, it does not indicate that it is an attack on “left-wing elites” as some American commentators have stated. While Justin Trudeau is no doubt elite — his father was a former prime minister, after all — he is hardly left-wing, and certainly not by Canadian standards.
America may be a two-party system, but — luckily for them — Canada is not. Our own stunted political development might mean that anyone to the left of Milton Friedman is a socialist; that is not how it works in other nations. Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, would no doubt bristle at the notion that the leader of the Liberal Party is a leftist; the name of his party itself tells you everything you need to know.
Considering all of that context, it’s hard to see the trucking protest as either a 21st century October Revolution or an attack on some nebulous left-wing establishment. The people mischaracterizing it as a “working class revolt” know this, too. They are deliberately misrepresenting a Canadian issue to score political points with their American audiences. It’s just a shame that, unlike Covid, there is no vaccine against misinformation.
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